Ellen Pao, currently the interim CEO of Reddit, is no stranger to the struggles of women in the workplace. She took her former employer to court saying she was denied promotion due to her gender, and also says she faced negative consequences after speaking up about it.
Though she may not have won her lawsuit, Pao isn't giving up the fight to ensure women have as many opportunities as men when it comes to the workplace.
One of her first steps in making that a reality? Eliminating salary negotiations for new Reddit employees. Revealed in a Wall Street Journal interview today, Pao says she is leveling the playing field for men and women by offering the same starting package across the board for new employees at the company.
"Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate," Pao says in the interview. "So as part of our recruiting process, we don't negotiate with candidates. We come up with an offer that we think is fair. If you want more equity, we'll let you swap a little bit of your cash salary for equity, but we aren't going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation."
It's a lose-lose situation for some women, Pao continues.
"Women get criticized on both ends, and you have this needle that you have to thread, and sometimes it feels like there's no hole in the needle," she says. From what I've heard from women, they do feel like there's no way to win. They can't be aggressive and get those opportunities without being treated like they've done something wrong."
It is for that reason that Pao has gotten rid of salary negotiation for new employees all together. It's a controversial move. While numerous studies have shown women are less likely to negotiate pay and more likely to be penalized if they do aggressively negotiate, some say eliminating the ability to negotiate one's own salary won't fix the problem.
Alexandra Levit, author of Blind Spots and a writer on workplace issues, tells Mashable that removing salary negotiations won't get rid of the unconscious gender bias that still plagues many companies.
"I think this is a bad move. It's true that women don't fare as well in salary negotiations, but the fact is, they don't fare as well with compensation generally as men, and this won't solve the age-old problem of unconscious bias this won't solve the age-old problem of unconscious bias," Levit says.
Pao has become a symbol for gender-bias in the tech industry, a women leading the charge for change. While not everyone agrees, she says she was inspired by the stories of women who have gone through circumstances at work similar to her own.
"For me it was inspiring," Pao says. "To hear these women share their stories and hear men share stories of their wives, their mothers, their sisters, and also their own experiences. It was inspiring to hear that my story resonated and it was actually not just my story but a lot of people's stories."
That's why she is working to improve Reddit's employee culture. Whether it will succeed in making a more equal work environment or simply frustrate employees looking for more control over their salaries remains to be seen.
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